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Sunday, 15 January 2012


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I thought that you just bought an iPhone? Why do you think 97.43% of the population, when in public, have those white things stuck in their ears?

...And incidentally, I want y'all to know that I once turned down what would have been a VERY lucrative advertising contract for TOP because the advertiser insisted on a flashing GIF. Flashing ads on websites annoy me, and I don't want to inflict them on my readers. Even though I'd be well paid to annoy you.

See what I do for you?

--Mike, TOP Bottlewasher and Blog Policy Dictator

Public broadcast of noise purported to be
music must be banned. Elevator music and Muzak or variations on the theme crowd our
existence. Earphones of any and all sizes as well as external producers of said noises are a bane on our existence.

There is a reason I wear custom fitted ear plugs...

Mike, along the same lines is inflicted TV in waiting rooms. Channels are usually locked on to something we do not care for. Need to get sme "buds" for your iphone.

Well, Mike, there may be no cure for inflicted music, but there IS a cure for its demented sibling, inflicted TV.


Highly recommended, and no, it's really not funny when used in a sports bar - all other venues are fair game, though...

Yes, yes, yes. It's an awful invasion.

I've discovered that there are some people, me included, who go through their entire lives with songs playing in their heads. Interrupt any moment and ask, Hey, what song is going through your head right now? and they can instantly tell you. These are the people sitting in a restaurant who turn to each other and say, Is that Lady Madonna? because they're constantly aware of the background music that others don't notice. Maybe it's hereditary because my kids also have it.

I've found that you can actually go up to the receptionist in some doctor and dentist offices and ask if they mind turning off the music. If it's important, you can lie and say you're working on some music assignment for a class or something. Some of those receptionists are actually relieved to have the break. Or they don't care and just turn it off.

I also ask medical offices to turn off the TVs playing those horrible kids movies. Don't get me started.

Mike, I couldn't agree more! I have actually told companies who subject me to this torture (via phone while line on hold) that I would change vendors if I had to listen to their music while awaiting assistance. Tyranny indeed. Make it Stop!!

Since you are talking about doctors' offices, how about the continuous drug infomercials on the TVs in the waiting rooms today? How about watching the "drug dealers," typically young attractive girls (or guys for the lady doc we go to) who come in with trays of goodies for bribes?

Background music is one of those things that many people need to have to avoid thinking. It's like the line in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about how people talk constantly because they're afraid that if they stop, their brains might start working. I suspect people are so used to background music now that a business that didn't have it would lose business -- customers would be creeped out by this weird "silence thing" and wouldn't want to be there. "Is this a store? It sounds like a mausoleum in here."

What I find even stranger than background music is when a TV is kept on at all times, especially if the sound is left on at a very low level where you can't quite ignore it but you can't understand it either.

"I've found that you can actually go up to the receptionist in some doctor and dentist offices and ask if they mind turning off the music."

I did that the other day, at another doctor's office. They keep CNN blathering on in their main lobby, so I usually go find the quieter children's area so I can read. I've never seen any children there. Not once.

So last time, the TV was on in the children's area. It was deserted as usual. So I went up to the receptionist and asked if she could turn the sound off for me, so I could read. She glared at me and said "but then the children can't hear the TV." I pointed out that there were no children. She glared at me much harder, then relented, and went for the remote.

I said, "In fact, if you want to turn it off altogether, that would be fine with me too."

She said (really), "Oh, no, I can't do that. I've got to leave it on for the children."

It's like living in an alien culture sometimes.


Good luck. I've learned not to even mention this; most people honestly don't seem to be able to see it as a problem. I guess that is a good thing for the poor souls who work all day with this junk.

TV is even more invasive to me. We've abandoned one local restaurant now as they've added more and more televisions so that there is now no spot left to escape.

For doctors offices, barber shops, etc. where I'm by myself, my approach is an iPod Shuffle with in ear monitors. Mine are old Etymotic 6i earphones that claim about 35 dB of noise isolation. The shuffle and earphones fit in the tiny case that came with the 6i's. A bonus is that this setup sounds great.

One time I got to a particularly egregious waiting room and found only the earphones in the case; I must have had the Shuffle out for charging. I used just the earphones while waiting my turn and left the unused plug in the case so as not to look completely idiotic.

I've wondered what people would think if they could hear the rough field recordings of old time fiddle music I'm listening to, but I would not expect them to have the same taste in music that I do.

You have TVs and music in the doctors over in the US?

Dude...plug into that new iPhone! Bam! everything else is gone. Lift your head up occasionally to see if the receptionist requires your full attention.

That said I do feel your pain but I happen to be one of those people who can listen to virtually any song in a selective manner. Hate the song...but that drum track alone can keep me in it. Listen to the guitar or bass line only. Yep, I can do that.

I was in a restaurant last night that had zero music playing and it was worse than a college cafeteria.

Do you also wish for no "art" on the walls due to it's potential to offend or annoy? Just curious.

Oh, I sooo agree!

I have this fantasy (and it is only a fantasy let me stress) where I go to my local shopping centre ('mall' to you guys across the Pond) armed with a sniper rifle and then walk around systematically taking out each and every loudspeaker that's churning out his non-music. In this fantasy, I'm usually accompanied by a cheering crowd - especially at Christmas time....

Back in the real world, the other thing that gets me is the continuous racket accompanying any modern TV documentary - whether high-brow or low. There's throbbing music to build tension, wistful music to accompany philosophical points, music to help presenters drive to a location, music while they walk around, music while they gaze at the middle-distance, music while they talk - especially while they talk. I'm supposed to be listening to what they say not the frickin' 'music' track!!

Why is all this noise even deemed necessary? A few years back on TV we had this wonderful thing called silence with careful, sparing and judicious use of music to underline a point. And it was so much more effective that way. Now everything is accompanied by sonic wallpaper there's simply no way of underlining what's important. Perhaps none of it is?

I don't like noise, so I just ordered some noise cancelling headphones. Will see how that goes, but might be an effective tactic against noise pollution in general...

And why would the children need the TV there?

"I suspect people are so used to background music now that a business that didn't have it would lose business -- customers would be creeped out by this weird "silence thing" and wouldn't want to be there. "Is this a store? It sounds like a mausoleum in here."

I think that's probably true. I also would guess that the same thinking was the original impetus for music to be played in the first place. I think (and I'm probably projecting myself here) that the "mausoleum" feeling would be there even if I it wasn't common to play music - and a place that did would feel more "homey" to me. It's the same reason when I read at home, I usually have the TV or stereo on.

Inflicted music can enrich one's life - but rarely. In 2003 I was with my wife and another couple in Stratford Ontario attending the Shakespeare festival. We dined in a local eatery (The Church Restaurant) and they were piping in soft jazz. One tune caught my ear and I found myself trying to identify the artist. I finally had to ask the waiter (wait person? wait staffer??) who had to go to the Maitre 'd (who may have had to call God from the Church belfry, for all I know) to get the name (Jane Monheit). I had been unaware of Ms. Monheit's work until then, but have appreciated her music ever since.

Once. That's happened once in more than sixty years of dining out.

My favorite Italian restaurant plays a considerable number of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett tunes but; I think it adds to the tone of the joint.

One can be hard pressed to find a hamburger (or Crosby tune) on the menu; it's an Italian joint - Italian food, Italian wine, Italian singers. Them's as who don't enjoy the food or the music are free to carry themselves elsewheres to dine, the management makes no apologies for either ().

Jim Hart


I know exactly what you are talking about! I have a quirk where I get an lyric loop* stuck in my head - yesterday I was at a store and I got the chorus to David Bowie's "Zbqrea Ybir"** stuck in my head until I realized what was going on - ten minutes later in the car. Fortunately, there's a nice classical station in my area that was able to cancel it out in short order.

My favorite thing is going to Target late in the evening, say around 10pm, or early on a weekday, when they've shut off the music early for the day. Even stores that randomly have no music playing are just reinforcing enough that I prefer shopping there. The rest of the time, I try to bring my ipod, or a distraction (kids!).


*technical term: earworm
**rot-13'd for safety.

I use to have a dentist that played "new age" music, you know, the george winston mindless meandering variety with no hope of resolution? Apparently there is some perception that this is soothing??????
I have always held the sincere belief that if a study was done, they would find that mass murders were the result of people listening to this stuff. Simply people looking for some resolution....

Sometimes the music situation can be even worse for the employees. When I worked at a movie theater for a summer job, we could only listen to the company provided "Movie Tunes" psuedo-radio CD, which was issued once a month. It wouldn't have been so bad, except that the entirety of the CD was only about forty minutes long... which got pretty repetitive during an eight-hour day, and even worse during the double shifts. Some months the selection actually wasn't too bad, but they had a knack for picking at least one "private hell" song every month.

At another past workplace, we listened to the actual radio, but the station varied in a rotating schedule. I learned to dread Wednesdays, which was when a certain overly-sentimental and hyper-commercial genre of music would be piped into the store, at a louder volume than any other day of the week. It was the worst when the one person who actually changed the radio station went on vacation, and I was stuck with Wednesday for the better part of two weeks. I was actually looking for ways to physically disconnect the overhead speakers in my section of the store, and I felt like I was involved in some sort of psychology experiment.

Since then, I'm only rarely interested in listening to music while working, and it almost always has to be something without interpretable lyrics, or else I'll find it distracting.

The problem with substituting personal music heard via an iPhone or iPod is that some of us with musical sensibilities also can't stand listening to music via .mp3s, either, what with all the havoc the format wreaks upon it.

For me, listening to music is an activity to be enjoyed in and of itself, not as an accompaniment to other activities. Okay, maybe sipping a dram of single-malt or cuddling are acceptable accompaniments, but those are it!

I am so with you on this! My other pet peeve is the perceived necessity for music accompanying spoken/documentary/tutorial videos. The level is frequently too high, making listening to the narrative difficult: at best it's irritating or downright disruptive. I've even come across tutorial videos where the so-called "background" music has vocals. I hit the back button VERY quickly in those cases.

My younger colleagues at work (I'm staring retirement in the face) reckon it's because younger folk live their lives with an almost constant musical accompaniment and notice its absence more than its presence.

Alien culture indeed.


Did you consider asking the receptionist to either share her drugs or call Ghost Hunters? She was obviously seeing something you were not.......

I have to admit that my solution when I can't avoid the muzak/TV is tight fitting earbuds and my iPod with three playlists: modern stuff to keep me awake, classical to relax, and some of those waterfall/rain/wind in the trees tracks for when I don't want music.

I blame the the U.S. Bankruptcy Court entirely. Had they not approved the reduction of Muzak's debt by more than half in 2010 this wouldn't have inflicted you so.

+1 - I love to listen to music - at the place and time of my choice, and ipod enables me to do so without inflicting it on other people. Any music played in public as "background" of whatever quality is just noise pollution.
As distinct from music played in public that the audience has attended with the expressed intention of listening to - that's a concert.

I can relate Mike. My tolerance for cheesy music is pretty low. Please turn it off.

You're right Mike - it's impossible to choose music that appeals to everyone. I work in a doctors office in the UK, and a few years ago we took out a licence to play public radio in our waiting room. We tried three options - a pop station, an oldies station and a classical station before reverting to silence. All three generated large numbers of complaints, but worst of all was the number of people complaining when we turned the radio off completely. It's back on now, just with the volume turned down a little. And being the radio, at least we're getting real oldies, not covers like in your place.

"You have TVs and music in the doctors over in the US?"

In the waiting rooms, yes. You don't?


I almost concur with you 100% Mike but was a little startled by your examples, I like most Abba(original of course)and believe there may even be one or two George Benson tracks that are OK.

A couple of pertinent personal stories -

When I worked in a large computer shop full of deafening crappy music and various bleeps & whoops from gaming machines, lots of customers would ask me "how can you work with that noise all the time?" Just one of the stress making elements of the job that made me very relieved when I left.

Yesterday I was browsing in a local bargain clothing shop which usually plays music that's just the wrong side of OK. Clothes outlets tend to play music that is particularly offensive so the prices and almost tolerable music attract me to this one. I was just about to leave when they played a Bob Marley & the Wailers track that so cheered me up that I browsed for a further 5 minutes!

I guess I can ignore John Tesh because I usually have some Cole Porter rolling around in my head. What I can't tolerate is walking into a doctor's office with Fox News disrupting my sensibilities. I just know it adds 20 points to my blood pressure.

"I have a quirk where I get an lyric loop* stuck in my head"

I heard something hilarious the other day on TV...Amy Sedaris, in an interview, said that when that happens to her, she thinks of the old jingle-phrase "Byyyyyy...MENNEN" and it gets rid of it for her.

(The 3-note ad jingle is at the end of this ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1lXTNVp4IY )

And you know, damned if it doesn't seem to work for me too!!


While I agree with you (and I'm off to Amazon right now to buy something to say thank you for declining the flashing GIF), I find that carrying a book (or Kindle) everywhere is a pretty good solution.
Unless said music is extremely loud, when reading I am able to tune it out completely.

What is even more annoying is a place that have 2 competing bits of music playing at once. I was trying to have a meal in a restaurant in a place that had Muzak in one ear and a TV playing a different tune in the other, I eventually had to ask if they could please turn at least one source off as it was driving me demented.

They're the ones who say, "Oh, I never notice it. I just tune it right out."
My momentary impulse to do violence to those people passes, fortunately.

I'm glad it passes. I think I am reasonably musical-even if I don't have the talent to be a performer or the inspiration to be a composer. But I have also made the evolutionary adaptation to tune out the unavoidable, often out of key, noise. In elevators, in offices where a request for quiet is considered an insult, since the office staff LIKE the music, in restaurants where sometimes the vocal noise (happily) drowns out the so called music, the ability to 'tune it out' is an adaptation that helps maintain a much happier mood than would be the case if that heavy metal banging -or whatever- couldn't be tuned out.
And yes, Mike, there is hope-you can learn to be a selective hearer, and not suffer that particular pain.

I put this out for consideration, not to stir anyone up, but when it comes to unwelcome noise american travellers might try reducing the volume of their voices when overseas.....

I was first made aware of this by the locals in Ladakh in 1985, who reckoned they could tell the yanks were coming from half a mountain away.

If I had the power to travel through time and alter one fact of our existence, it would be the elimination of speakers on cell phones. For some reason the youth of New York City feels their abysmal music should be shared via the tinny speaker of their cell phones on crowded subway cars. I believe this is a scourge worse than Muzak, soft jazz and instrumental versions of "Tainted Love."

Perhaps it would be useful to ask—or to remind ourselves—why Muzak & Co. is being inflicted upon the innocent public to begin with. The answer is sinister enough.
And, Mike: imagine not being a Christian, indeed of no religious creed at all, and constantly subject to the din of religious broadcasts and generally faith-based background noise? I mean, statistically that's far more likely and less escapable than your example.

Not to mention those restaurants where large flat-screen TVs flicker relentlessly, volume muted, whilst totally unrelated background music is being played. Annoyance squared.

I hate "involuntary" music so much I don't even listen to music radio...

Sign me up!

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one! Unwanted music, TV, odors, flashing GIFs... They're all environmental spam.

I've never understood people who simply MUST have the TV going all the time. I've just moved out of an apartment where my downstairs neighbor kept his TV running from 7AM until 11PM - and usually with the sound turned up abnormally high to make up for his hearing deficit. It's infuriating! I really don't want to have to listen to Judge Judy or Cops or Jeopardy constantly through my floor.

But even if the sounds inflicted upon me are less trite, they can still be undesirable. There are times I simply don't want to hear anything. I find that as I grow older I value silence (and sanity) sometimes more than any programming. It's kind of like negative space. I need it to make what I do want to hear more enjoyable.

Mike, Be thankful you don't work in retail! There the music is not only mandatory and awful, but it repeats! Depending on your shift length and the particular satellite radio playlist that corporate has approved you will hear the same Lady Gaga or Mylie Cyrus song 4 to 8 times over. It is one of the new outer rings of hell.

And as Craig commented, there is no remedy. Our manager was sympathetic to our complaints. and agreed to turn down the volume slightly, until HIS manager visited for her monthly tour, did the muzakometry on her checklist, and demanded the volume be returned to the approved don't-think-buy-more level.

I like your idea about aural rights. Perhaps we could get workplace safety agencies involved!

Some things you just cannot turn off so easily, like sound, smell, temperature. And yes, they can be extremely annoying.

And BTW, go Giants! Send the Packers packin' :) Fat chance though :(

White-noise generator? Is there an app for that? :)

For the TVs, at least, there is a solution: TV-be-gone!

"Inflicting music" I so very much like that expression! It summarizes beautifully the feeling I have about it and how pernicious its effect are on me when I have to endure it. It is the culture of noise, the assumption that you cannot be entertained unless you are engaged in one activity or another and that simply waiting, observe or read may not be enough. You got me started, sorry.

Regardless of the quality of the music, too much of it is not a good thing. I rather enjoy the music that I like when I want, or explore new music at my leisure.

As for Martha Benedict's comment, I also agree, my daughter who is 13 now showers herself in perfume and then inflicts it on his helpless father. It will pass, I know, but not soon enough.

Getting older is not easy ...

I think that the TV on in the waiting room is even worse than music. Especially given the extremely low level of worth involved in most television programming at this time. Combine that with people entertaining us with insisting on taking their personal phone calls in the waiting area and I am convinced that this is a society about to collapse into the mist of mediocrity.

Considering annoying hospital system on hold messages mine insists on all calls, including from the inside, listen to their ridiculous advertisements about how we are the greatest thing to ever happen in medicine. Oh that drives me crazy.

I always being my iPad and noise cancelling headphones to doctor's offices or other waiting rooms.

I recall being in a Border's bookstore once around Christmas when the in-store CD player got stuck playing the same 45 seconds of whatever track it was on in a loop. This went on for at least half an hour or longer, everyone oblivious. I finally had to ask them to make it stop.

Lately I avoid this sort of thing by just not going out.

I agree with you on the inflicted music. Most is crap, and the stuff I like I know many others don't. But, I find the presence of a television to be more offensive to have inflicted on me. I don't need to see the news, sports, etc when I'm eating, or just waiting. The worst is to be forced to watch FOX news (or I'm sure equally as bad is MSNBC for conservative people). I was waiting at the gate at an airport and they had several TVs showing FOX. In 20 minutes my blood pressure was through the roof from both the content and the fact the airline felt the need to inflict this on me.

You're so right, Mike. I am an auditive, which means my perception is based on hearing. The kinf of background music you wrote about has a particularly perverse effect on me, sometimes leading me to develop homicidal tendencies. (Well, not really, but you get the drift.) It loks like we can't walk into any place, be it a store, a barber shop, a café, a restaurant or whatever, without having to put up with the kind of hedious music someone decided everybody likes. The problem is that, at least here in my beautiful country, people set the volume so loud it can't be considered 'background' music anymore. I don't know how the people who work at those places can stand it - it's like being at a disco from 9 to 5! They must be exhausted at the end of a working day.
There are exceptions, though. I used to go to this particular bar because they played St. Germain and Thievery Corporation (at moderate levels). And I remember one bus trip when my rambling about background music in buses ceased when a tune by Peace Orchestra - one of Peter Kruder's many projects - started flowing from the loudspeakers. I must underline, however, that those fine selections are not the rule...
And the people who wrote about TV at waiting rooms are also right. It's just that, being an auditive, it doesn't annoy me as much as muzak does.

As regards to TV, over here in Aussie land, the TV stations have just cotton'ed on to the sound 'splash' between their picture (story) bites. I think they are copying the Asian TV as it is rife on their networks. So every time there is a change of picture, you have to endure the sound splash "whoosh". I find it terribly annoying.

>>"You have TVs and music in the doctors over in the US?"

In the waiting rooms, yes. You don't?<<

My doctor's waiting room has a selection of magazines for most interests and all ages, my previous dentists' did too but my new dentist plays BBC Radio 2.
When places use radio for background music it's usually the DJ's babble that's more offensive than the music.

When trying to be practical and environmentally friendly by using the nearest city's Park & Ride scheme I hate being captive to the local radio that's played (too loud) on the bus.

Always interesting to get a first hand view of life in the US when reading TOP, sounds like inflicted music is not quite so bad in Europe - yet!

I believe that it was George Bernard Shaw that said, when asked why he was being quiet at a gathering, "I prefer not to speak unless I can improve upon silence"

It should work for most music too...

"Public broadcast of noise purported to be music must be banned."

Yes, Mike, your premise that the inflicted acoustic energy qualifies as "music" is generally invalid.

The only exception I've experienced was being put on hold at B&H. Before on-line ordering and customer service contacts became the norm, I could be blissfully happy listening to their "Rhapsody in Blue" while waiting. On several occasions I recall telling one of their apologetic employees that there was no problem; they could come back to me in around fifteen minutes when the performance was complete. :)

Yes I spend 40 hours a week in a big box store that plays a mix of 70's pop rock and disco day and night. it never stops. Very distracting when sitting at desk trying to help a customer. I don't need to hear "you can ring my bell" again. No one does.

Here in the UK, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, The Queen's Musician, takes a strong and often public stand against "background" music. For a notable composer who is therefore more musically aware than most, I can imagine that not being able to avoid this stuff is akin to torture.
This link to a newspaper article will tell you more. A websearch using his name and the words "Musak" or "Background Music" will produce further references.

I guess I'm lucky in that I have the brain-power to completely ignore music I don't enjoy. Whenever a friend complains of an ear worm, I offer a cure with the caveat that they may prefer the existing worm to my treatment (which is to begin singing the words to Its A Small World After All). I probably look a little odd when I'm off in my own world ignoring the external stimuli. When someone catches me at it I usually reply that I was thinking about triangles (sometimes I claim rectangles).

I typically visit coffee shops several times a week, and I'm lucky that the ones I frequent feature music the staff chooses (usually a Pandora station). I rarely like the music per se, but the fact that it is something someone likes gives it a better chance. But as I said, I just ignore it if I don't like it.

I used to be a die-hard audiophile but gave it up because I realized I could enjoy the music just as well in my head while listening, and ignoring the bloom and soundstaging and imaging etc etc. More money for music! A real ear-opener for me was a visit to Bernie Grundman Mastering in the mid 90s. I got to hear original master tapes from RCA's Living Presence series (30 IPS 2" tape, three track) on Bernie's 'workspace'. I couldn't get over how noisy the musicians were (clearing throats, turning pages, sliding chairs). I realized I was listening to the wrong things.

I'm fortunate in that while Euterpe is my muse, I do not have perfect pitch (I have very good pitch, and very good relative pitch). In high school, my band teacher was insistent that there was no such thing as perfect pitch, while the choir teacher (his wife) indeed had it. I notice off-pitch singing/playing constantly, but I am able to 'walk it off'.

As for music, I play it on my computer, but I don't count that as 'listening to music'. I never have the TV on unless I'm deliberately watching (I don't channel surf). When I want to listen to music, it gets my proper attention.


Just start singing along with it. They'll either turn it off or throw you out. Either way, you won't have to listen to continue to listen to it.

They recently installed outdoor speakers in our small downtown. I normally don't like these kinds of things, but more often than not they are playing Miles, Coltrane, Ella, etc. I laugh when Monk comes on - makes up for all the Air Supply and Abba we are subject to.

One of my great pleasures in life was listening to music and so when I started to lose my hearing it was quite a loss. The benefit of loss of hearing is that i don't have to listen to that awful sonic pollution that some people call music in public places. See every cloud does have a silver lining.

Agreed, Mike.

From being raised in a "classical" family and then later subject to the delights of the college choirs of Cambridge, I abhor the rubbish which seems on a par with the crappy quality of the goods the same shops play and sell.

I guess it's the implied suggestion you'll like the drivel which is mildly insulting. Yet, there it is and it no doubts comforts the likes of Charlie (further above) as they pick among the latest offerings from their local Chinese trading post.

Mozart or nothing!

Our favorite Japanese restaurant installed a large screen TV in the middle of the room. It was awful. The first time we went there, we asked if they minded turning it off, which they did. We must not have been the only ones to complain, because during our visits after that, it's always been off...

Fortunately I have tinnitus so bad the 'crickets' drown out some of the auditory assault. The Christmas music every season makes me want to.........sorry, can't use that word on a nice blog like yours. The amazing thing to me is that everyone seems to agree about how awful it is and yet so many establishments still do it. Strange.

Some day really bad music will save us,
as did Slim Whitmans 'Indian Love Song' saved the day in 'Mars Attacks'

You might all enjoy a Tim Robbins movie from 2007 "Noise" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425308/). It's not about unwanted music, more about unwanted noise, which is sort of what unwanted music is.

I found out that the "classic" rock music in one of those Big Box hardware chain stores is programmed at head office by time of day and time zone. I think the "music" they play in waiting rooms and stores isn't random, it's designed to affect you in some way. I bet they hired expensive consultants to determine the play list. If government spent money like that, they'd call it waste. I am waiting to read about some mass murderer using it as a defense, "The music made me do it".

Mike - As I read your rant, the first thought that came to mind was of Simon:

"Who's in charge around here?! Who's responsible for the Hawaiian music in the elevators?!"

At 4:35

No one can possibly please everyone at anything, that's why people should focus on small markers, and know their audience really, really well. (something which TOP does really well BTW). I'd say the audience is something like slightly philosophical photographers, who are mostly interested in pictures, not cameras, but I'm sure you could describe the audience better than me.

TV's and music in doctor's waiting rooms-

I've never come across this myself (in Europe) - or in dentists. Waiting rooms generally have lots of magazines and reading material, and kid's areas also sometimes have toys and colouring books.

I've no doubt the US model will encroach given time, and the pressures of commerce.

Torture, you want torture. I drive a school bus in Northern California and the kids on the bus want, no insist that they can only listen to Rap music. I consider this primitive form of rhyming the Anti-Christ of music, but it seems to have a calming effect on the kids so I just grunt along.

Yes indeed. Though I think inflicted TV is even worse, as it adds annoying talk and visual pollution to the "music", as well as a neurotic, attention-scattering pace.

However, there is a bit of irony in this subject being addressed in a column called "open Mike", no? [grin]

"White-noise generator? Is there an app for that?"

Yes, Tim. Several, actually. One of them called simply "White Noise".

Same reasons why Brian Eno compose "Music for Airports" ;-)

Music is one thing, but inane TV noise is even worse. Airports are the worst. If I have to wait more than a few minutes I often try to find a gate that is completely unoccupied and sit by myself to read. The pain of the irritating commercials is the worst, but the drone of the same content over and over is awful.

This post reminds me that I have been meaning to buy a device that will universally turn TVs off. It's called tv-b-gone and is, of course, available on the internet for about $20. Priceless.

Nobody has mentioned the ethnic restaurants that play music videos form their homeland!
Here in LA, it seems every cheap ethnic restaurant has a large screen TV playing Japanese, Persian, Thai, Bollywood, Chinese, etc. videos, and sometimes after a few drinks, they can be a hoot!

Lumping George Benson with Abba and Air Supply is just wrong! Like most musicians he had some commercial type songs that were definitely over played but the man is a serious jazz player! The other two are definitely just noise pollution.

But I don't need to hear a schmaltzy cover of HIS cover of Leon Russell's "This Masquerade." I'm just sayin'.


The State buses in New South Wales finally resolved complaints about drivers allowing us to share their dubious musical tastes (the buses all have speakers from one end to the other) by giving discretion to those drivers. If you're courageous you can try asking the driver to turn the music or radio off (some like "shock jocks").

On one trip the driver, when I asked for no music, conducted a poll of passengers and I was outvoted and snarled at by all. It's a lost cause.

As is the very loud in car stuff, which, because low frequencies are non directional and high ones very directional, result in that annoying series of thuds which I believe is called Doof something.

As for:

"Sir Peter Maxwell Davies" above:

Now if I could somehow play "Eight Songs for a Mad King" to the busload, loudly, that would be revenge enough.

Hear, hear!

What about billboard pollution? is there any reason we should be subjected to constant advertising in "public" spaces? If they are public then we should be able to occupy them without having private interests foist their propaganda upon us.
And I agree – perfume's just likecigarette smoke – stinks and invades my nostrils.
What can we do about morons who play their iPods so loudly you can hear the chirping over the noise of the subway! And those cretins in their cars that boom from blocks away. What can be done about them?

Yes, it's dreadful. But compared to the appalling onslaught of relentless television advertising, it's almost trivial.

Reminds me of a trip to Disney - want a few quiet minutes rest?? No chance!!!

One night my wife and I went to a local Italian style restaurant here in Hong Kong. The music playing was an endless repeat of Ave Maria. Not a great rendition either. We asked, politely, if they could at least take it of repeat. No, was the reply, it is the theme music. Never been back, which is a pity, the food was good.

I'll second the recommendation for etymotic earphones. I've owned 6i's and upgraded to 4i's when it came time to replace the cord. They block out enough sound that you can use them at safe volumes in noisy environments like subway trains and small airplanes, and the sound quality is excellent.

"I think I should have a right to manage my own musical experiences"

Mike you bloody buffoon, you have an iPhone. Plug in the ear buds that came with it and cue up some of your saved tracks or learn how to operate Pandora or other streaming radio.

Please Mike, don't be so needy. You CAN manage anything you like in your life, if you just stop leaving it up to someone else.

I really enjoy the Christmas season and the music. However, when the kids watch the movie "Polar Expess" and that background music keeps blasting away during the kids' wanderings through the virtually unoccupied buildings at the North Pole, it creeps me out. Anybody else have that impression?

"I've no doubt the US model will encroach given time, and the pressures of commerce."

I'm not so sure - music isn't making the doctor or dentist any money in the US. They don't get paid to play it. And in some cases, they are paying extra themselves to play it. (At the very least they paid for the equipment that is playing it.)

So if the patients are happier not having it, the doctor likely will be too.

Nothing's worse than the incessant, yapping-dog drivel of Joe Buck during a football game broadcast.

Here in Bangkok it is a constant bombardment, I am living in a cacophony. Take the subway or skytrain and there are TV's and speakers on the platform blasting out advertising and videos. When you escape off the platform into the train car there is no escape as there are TV's inside and the aural attack continues. Go to a shopping mall and there are promotions, sales, and just general shilling--all at ear piercing volume quite often. Waiting rooms at hospitals and assorted restaurants the TV's is on. I guess many of the people being glued to their iPhones, Blackberrys, and Androids must not be aware of the perpetual din. At least when I get home I am able to relax listening to Blind Blake, Jelly Roll Morton, and other musical heroes--actually I still hear the songs in my head when I am out to fight off all the other noises. Mark C.--those field recordings of old time fiddle music you mentioned sound great.

Used to browse a Goodwill store here (big college town, Massachusetts) where the manager played DJ with the good vynil that came in... so you'd be listening to Ella Fitzgerald or early Beatles as you wandered around, then you'd sally across the street to the Cavernous Used Bookstore where they'd be spinning some Lightnin' Hopkins.... both phenomenons gone in the last 5 years. And I've never understood co workers who can "listen to music" while working....

Can we add to this category "Having to listen to other people's cellphone conversations?" Most of these people I wouldn't want to know even if I was sinking in quicksand and they had a rope. I absolutely don't want to hear about their drab lives.

Back in the mid 80's I moved my office (I'm a Pediatrician) to a new location that, the landlord showed me, was equipped with Muzak.

She showed me how to turn it on. I immediately turned it off. I've always hated background music, and this was even piped into the exam rooms, so I'd have to hear it all day, even when I was listening to kids chests, etc.

A few days later a Muzak salesman came in. I told him he'd not get any money from me. He warned me that using the service without paying would be stealing. I encouraged him to note that it was turned off. Also, he told me that if I didn't pay, he'd remove the system. I told him to go ahead.

He came by every few weeks asking for money. Each time he warned me that he'd disconnect the Muzak system if I didn't start paying for it. I'd always reply that he was welcome to do so.

Don't think he was a rude sob; he was, after all, a salesman. I actually came to enjoy his visits as we could spar in a good natured manner. He claimed all sorts of business advantages to background music such as increased sales (in a doctor's office?) and customer satisfaction, etc.

Finally after about 6 months he arrived with a screwdriver and removed the rheostat for the system. He admitted he'd never caught us stealing his music. I never saw him again.

The inventor of Muzak should be cursed to spend eternity listening to an endless loop of the singing dogs cover of Strangers In The Night.

"Roof roof roof roof roof..."

harsh but just

"Reminds me of a trip to Disney - want a few quiet minutes rest?? No chance!!!"

Few things are certain in this life. But one of them is, I'm never going to Disney World. [s]


My chosen superpower would be to find a humane, effective and freedom-enhancing substitute for global capitalism. But failing that, the ability to silence all noise-making electronic devices within a 20-metre radius would do.

If memory serves, Mike listens to "good" music (music that he says he thoroughly appreciates and enjoys) while working at his computer on TOP material. I cannot do that. For me, listening is an activity in which all attention is fully concentrated on, for example, the music. Put otherwise, for me, if it is "good" music, it is practically impossible as well as demeaning to the music not to give it full attention. I cannot play good music while driving. It diverts my attention from what I should be paying attention to. However, there has been background or cocktail party music for quite some time - music that is meant to be pleasant and is not meant to seriously engaged. Mozart wrote both divertimenti and the Jupiter - one is expected to "listen" to them in different ways. One might even say about the former one hears it as background while also engaged in other activities but listens to the latter. I can "listen" to good background music while driving. But it is not just Mozart. My local market often plays "good" jazz that makes it hard at times for me to shop quickly. A few days ago Coleman Hawkins' 1939 Body and Soul came through the speakers. I had to stop shopping until it was finished.

It is hard to tell in the comments how much of what is irritating is simply bad music of whatever sort and how much is good background versus good music to be seriously engaged.

"You have TVs and music in the doctors over in the US?"

In the waiting rooms, yes. You don't?



My dentist added personal LCD panel TVs to the end of the pivot arm device at each of his exam chairs. My hygienist will ask if I would like my TV turned on while she cleans my teeth. When I say no she replies "thank you!"

My one question here though is shouldn't a true fan of music be able to find something to like in all forms of music? I at least tolerate the existence of rap music. Sure, Air Supply has no redeeming musical value but the ladies sure seemed to like it back in the day. It's only when you listen to all of the forms of storytelling that you realize they have so many traits in common.

All of that said, my daughter listened to smooth jazz in my car during one trip and nicknamed it "Cheesy Jazz". From that point forward whenever she and her sister cause trouble from the back seat on family trips I threaten to change the radio to XM Watercolors for that cheesy jazz experience. My wife usually says "oh, God, no."

I hear you (pun not intended.)

And my heart goes to those poor souls who actually work there and have that going on all day. I get crazy after five minutes, but I'd go postal after ten hours.

"...shouldn't a true fan of music be able to find something to like in all forms of music..."

Virtually all of the inflicted noise fails to qualify as music. Therefore, my answer is yes, but largely irrelevant. :-)

"...rap music..."


First off-topic post to require a comment from me (in case anyone cares): inflicted music is worst at the gym, where they invariably play latest hit songs and pop. There's nothing worse than trying to lift heavy metal with "I Kissed A Girl" or "Raining Men" ringing in your ears. Thankfully iPods drown it out with appropriately heavy music.

"Inflicted Music". I love the term -- perfect for what it's describing. I don't know how many stores I've walked out of because of blaring rock music. I guess they're pandering to the "hip" demographic, but my money is green, too, and I like to spend it, but not in a venue that is assaulting my ears.

OTOH, for a few years the local courthouse had Andres Segovia playing classical guitar music for their "hold" music. It made for a lovely break...

"Inflicted music"!

Mike, you've defined one of our worst nightmare here in Brazil. People here have lost all sense of pleasure and beauty that were typical of Brazilian music. Now we are tortured everyday by stupid people in cars playing very high loud noise, that they call music....

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